Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Miss Walters, equally anxious to do her duty, could not help being far too young and inexperienced to be able to judge and manage girls whom she had not known from childhood ; while who could be to blame for giving her such a responsibility when no one else would come forward for it? With short hands and most imperfect instruments the work of the Church on earth has often to be done. Who can wonder that good people are often exposed to the sort of injustice which now befell Alice Woodford, though the workers themselves may well pray to be guarded against it?

On the day after the school-treat, Mr. Anson, secretly thinking that his Rector had dealt hard measure, set out to make three calls on the rejected candidates.

At the first Mrs. Gore told him that she had only allowed Sylvia to be presented as a favour to the district lady who had called round so often, but that the girl preferred the Congregational, and she always let her children go where they got most good; she didn't herself hold with Confirmation.

Mr. Anson retired in very low spirits, thinking that the Rector's severity had lost a lamb from the fold, and a recruit from the army. Mrs. Jackson was offhand and cheerful. Well, her girl didn't seem to think much of the classes, 'twasn't the sort of teaching as she was used to, but there was many as would be glad to have Mary as a candidate. St. Michael's was not the only church in Dulworth ; she'd gone a good deal lately to St. Mark's.'

Here would be another gap in the St. Michael's benches, and neither mother seemed to think it possible that her daughter could be to blame. Mr. Anson felt quite nervous by the time he got to Laura Terrace.

Mrs. Woodford was a little dry, but she was perfectly respectful, and when Mr. Anson said that he had called to speak about last night, she called the reluctant Alice out of the kitchen to listen, and said

If you please, sir, I think Alice got pushed into the corner with the boys by mistake, she's not a girl to put herself forward.'

*Perhaps,' said Mr. Anson. 'I am sure I am extremely sorry for the Rector's decision, but he seems to think that it will be better to wait another year, and though I said a word for you, Alice, I am sorry to say Miss Walters seems to have reason to complain of you.'

• Miss Walters doesn't like me,' said Alice hotly.

Hush, Alice,' said her mother. • What fault does Miss Walters find in her, sir?'

• Well, as far as I understand, she complains of unsteadiness in the class and insubordination, and on the whole, Alice is still young, and it will be better to wait till next year.'

* Well, sir, of course you are the judge ; but I should like to know exactly why you think my girl unfit for Confirmation. Because to be put back is a thing she'll have to remember as a disgrace all her life,

though of course I wouldn't have her go up if she was unfit, for the world.'

Mr. Anson did not like to press the original points of bad behaviour at the treat, so he said rather vaguely that he hoped they wouldn't take it too seriously, 'Alice was young, and would be more attentive to her teacher in future. With such excellent parents he had no doubt that next year she would be ready. And then he took his leave, not prepossessed by Alice's manner, though her mother's was a pleasant change from his other visits.

But as the door shut behind him, Alice burst out into sobs and indignation. Turned back from Confirmation! Miss Alice, every one at home would know, and for being rough and noisy with the boysthe thing of all others that was hateful to her.

• Well !' said Etty, 'I think we'd better just leave off going to that stupid school, there's plenty of other Church ones where we can go, and Alice can send in her name fresh at St. Mark's. That's what Mary Jackson means to do. She says they'll ask no questions. All the same, Ally, Miss Alice would never have let you sit idle as you do in Miss Walters' class and never open your mouth. .

• 'Tis all different,' said Alice. “Mother, do you think I could go to one of the gentlemen at St. Mark's or St Augustine's? It's not like going to chapel, it's a real Church, and I can never go to school here again.'

Mrs. Woodford did not answer. She was not unfamiliar, nor was Alice, either in fact or fiction, with the rejection of a Confirmation candidate; but at Roseberry no one had ever been brought forward without careful consideration and full knowledge, and in the storybooks which she had read on the subject, the rejection, invariably just, had always worked for good in the end. Now Mrs. Woodford did not think that Alice deserved to be rejected, nor did she make light of the rejection. She thought the girl hardly used, and she was very indignant. But to obtain the rite, in defiance of her own clergy, she could not believe to be the way to bring a blessing on it, though perhaps to withdraw all the children from St. Michael's, and after a time begin fresh at another Church, might be the most agreeable course to her feelings.

I don't see my way, Alice,' she said ; but if I were you I'd think it over and see if there was anything in your behaviour to your teacher that Miss Alice wouldn't have approved of. Now, it's Lily's fine concert night, and if you cry any more you won't be fit to go to it.'

Alice did, however, cry till she had far too bad a headache for the concert, and her mother left her at home with the little ones, and took Etty by herself.

It was a very grand affair. There was a large audience, mostly of the lower middle-class, for this Choral Society was under no very distinguished patronage. The stewards rushed about, important and busy, the young ladies sang their best, and looked their prettiest in

their blue and red ribbons. The soloists were all encored without distinction, except that the comic songs were encored twice. Nothing could have been a greater success, and everybody was ready to begin another series of hard practices.

The audience were well pleased, and went home provided with a subject of conversation, and having, at any rate, felt what it was to have their feelings stirred by something outside the narrowness of their daily life.

They had a pride in the performance, since the performers were their own friends and relatives, and Mrs. Woodford could not but own that the Choral Society had given them a very pleasant evening.

CHAPTER VII.

THE TRIALS OF A TEACHER.

Miss WALTERS lived alone with her mother, who was the widow of an officer, in a small house in the St. Michael's district. She was a bright ambitious girl, and when she had just come to Dulworth, a year or two before, had thought her talents cruelly wasted on the various odds and ends of work assigned to her by the established parish workers, and on the class of little girls which were handed over to her in the Sunday-school. When in a few months the new district had been assigned to Mr. Anson, he, being new himself, was very glad of the sympathy of other new-comers who did not regard his novelty as a crime, and he felt that he had found valuable workers in Mrs. and Miss Walters; while they, on their side, were ready to give any amount of work in return for importance and recognition. For nobody knew very much about the Walters, who were poorly off, and most of the authoritative ladies of Dulworth were people of some position, who liked to keep the work in their own hands, or to assign it to well-known middle-class helpers.

Mr. Anson, therefore, had no difficulty in finding a following, and nothing could have been more socially as well as morally delightful to the

young district, than to make a great success and astonish their elders and betters. Spite of this little bit of base motive, they all set honestly and energetically to work, and spite of their many mistakes, stirred up an interest in Church matters, which was at least a stage above apathy. Of course, the first Confirmation after the separation was a very interesting occasion, and the length of their list was a subject of great pride; but Mr. Anson's choice could hardly be other than haphazard, and none of the ladies who helped him had any real knowledge of the young women, and still less of the lads of the district. Neither he nor they were people of exceptional talent or exceptional holiness, they themselves were raw and imperfect as well as their surroundings; but they read of Father Lowder or other great lights, and they did not see, when they worked so hard, why the same

of tea that sors and we

exceptional success should not follow them. But as Mr. Anson's candidates were not very regular in attending his classes, not particularly impressed by his teaching, and, in short, not in the least out of the common way, the sting of the Rector's decision was severe.

Miss Walters could not help feeling personally aggrieved by the three girls who had done her such discredit, and who evidently cared 80 little for her, and she really felt that sort of annoyance with Alice Woodford which is the snare of teachers towards uncongenial pupils, while the strictures she passed on that ridiculous place, Roseberry, where they spoiled people to such a degree,' were unmodified by any knowledge that Dr. Goodall had been for the last thirty years regarded as one of the lights of the Church.

She poured out her sorrows to a friend with whom she went to drink tea on the day after the treat, and was thus consoled.

Oh, girls are always disgusting. I hate them. Boys are my line. They're so much nicer.'

And can you keep the boys in order ?' asked Ethel Walters enviously.

Oh, well, I don't think order matters when they like you. One mustn't mind their high spirits. Sometimes they flip peas at me, and once they tied the fringe of my mantle to my chair; but, you know, they're fond of me. When I went away they said, “they couldn't abear the teacher who came instead of me, she let them have no fun, and she weren't good-looking enough.” Of course it was very rude of them, but still it's a great thing when they like one.'

But I don't quite see,' said Miss Walters, “the good of their liking one, if it dosen't make them learn and behave properly.'

Oh, not if they're girls, of course; but boys must be won through their affections.

Miss Walters did not exactly see the distinction. She had thought a great deal of winning the girls' affections; and as she recalled the tree the night before, she could not help thinking that a little more obedience, even if less affection, might have been very desirable on

the part of the boys. · Her standard of success was not a very high one; but she felt that she had not reached it. Had she better give it all up?

She was partly consoled, and partly made to feel still more vague dissatisfaction by a meeting with Mr. Anson, who threw all the blame on circumstances, and on the unreasonable expectations of the Rector, However, both the superintendents repaired to school on Sunday morning, with a renewed determination to be as strict and severe as possible, Miss Walters feeling that the absence of the three culprits would make her hard task easier.

Behold, on the first class bench sat Alice Woodford, looking very miserable, and rather ill-tempered, but there in her place, with her lessons perfectly learnt, though she could hardly get out her voice to VOL. 14.

17

PART 81.

say them, and if anything, less unspoken opposition in her mien than usual.

When a night's rest had given time for reflection, Mrs. Woodford had decided that she could not allow Alice to present herself for Confirmation elsewhere ; but as for the Sunday-school she really could not tell what was best. Clearly it was very badly managed, and possibly going there did the children as much harm as good. Certainly she would not send them without Alice. They would not be admitted to the Parish Sunday-school, seeking for another one was unpleasant to her country loyalty, and staying away for a few weeks, and then slowly dribbling back again, was a line of conduct which, though not unknown at Roseberry, was associated in her mind with very foolish mothers indeed.

· Let me go down to St. Mark's with Mary Jackson, mother,' said Esther; ''twill do just as well. And the treats is far better managed.'

•Don't let her, mother,' entreated Alice, at the first opportunity. • You don't know how she carries on with Mary Jackson and Sylvia Gore. They were beckoning the boys up the stairs last Sunday. You know I told you the school was spoiling us.'

Mrs. Woodford sighed, and remained doubtful. In the meantime Alice, in the first flush of her trouble, had sat down and poured it all out in a letter to her own dear young lady; who in her strange London home was moved to indignation, and even to tears, on behalf of her child, and repaid Miss Walters' views of Roseberry, with interest, on St. Michael's, Dulworth. She had too much sense, however, to show mischievous sympathy, and though in her answer she allowed Alice the dignity of a severe trial, she counselled submission, and even went so far as to say that she herself found it difficult to deal with strange girls, and that if, as Alice admitted, she had never answered Miss Walters' questions, that young lady could not possibly have a favourable impression 'either of her sense or her industry. 'I am very sorry for you, dear Alice, and no one who knew you would think you could behave rudely at the treat; but, really, from what you say yourself, I think at the classes you must have seemed very like Melinda Stubbs.'

At this reference, Alice laughed through her tears, for Melinda Stubbs was a girl who had once spent six months with an aunt at Roseberry, and had never been known to speak on any educational occasion for the whole time. As Miss Alice Goodall and her head girls had shared in the vain effort to melt the stranger, her silence had passed into a proverb among them. Alice was conscious that she had been far too like Melinda Stubbs.

She also felt a responsibility towards Violet Almond, who declared at once that she could never go to Confirmation Classes without Alice, and that if people were so unkind it would be better to have nothing to do with them. “But I will help you all the same at home, Violet,' said Alice, and I couldn't bear to keep you back.'

« AnteriorContinuar »